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shinglesAnyone who has lived through an episode of shingles has a story and the stories are all similar. Victims of the nasty virus bemoan the extended length of the illness (a few weeks to a couple of months), the extreme and unrelenting pain experienced and the shock of the diagnosis. Should you get the vaccine and spare yourself the pain?

“The worst pain of my life was from shingles. The second worst was after having three C-sections.” This is how one young mom described her experience with shingles. Her case never progressed to blisters because she quickly began taking an anti-viral medication thanks to a rapid diagnosis, but she still experienced the excruciating burning pain that people often associate with shingles. She was in her mid-30s.

Andy, a corporate lawyer who lives in the Heathcote area, was initially diagnosed with an eye and sinus infection and given a course of antibiotics. A couple of nights later, the pain in his face got so bad that his wife had to call a doctor at midnight and beg for pain medication. He mentioned to the on-call doctor that he had a strange blister on his nose as well; that doctor immediately and correctly diagnosed Andy with shingles. The pain, swelling and blistering got worse as he began anti-virals, then slowly got better over a month. An infection persisted in his eye, however, and he could barely see at one point. He was scared he would lose his eyesight. It was almost impossible to work. As the eye infection began to clear with the help of a corneal specialist, the itching phase started. “Mentally, this proved to be the most devastating part of the whole experience,” Andy said. “The itching was out of control, I could not stop it, it affected every aspect of my existence. I walked around at home and at work with ice packs on my head to try to numb things…when the itching flared up, I did what I could to exist but really I couldn't do anything else,” he added. Although Andy has mostly recovered, he does still have episodes of intense itching in his scalp and around his eye. Andy was in his late 40s at the time.

Joyce had her daughter in July of 2015, moved to Scarsdale in August, went back to work in October and hosted eight additional people for Thanksgiving. “I think it was stress that activated the shingles,” she said. “I had to fly to a conference the Monday after Thanksgiving… and I went with a rash on my forehead thinking it was contact dermatitis. When I got back from my conference,” she continued, “I remember being in a lot of pain…I went to [an urgent care] and the … doctor there took one look at me and said it was shingles.” She was put on anti-virals and saw an eye doctor to make sure she had no eye complications. “It cleared up after 4-5 weeks, but I have some scarring on my forehead from the blisters.” Joyce was 35 at the time.

Sarah’s shingles began with a tingling sensation under her rib cage, deep under the skin. She felt like she had been punched but couldn’t see any signs of injury. The pain got worse and she developed small bumps that resembled bug bites at first, but quickly grew into a very painful rash. She saw diagnosed around day 4 and was given anti-virals but doesn’t think it helped much. It took 6-8 weeks for the pain to go away. “At times, I could barely move off the couch and it was very difficult to sleep,” she said. “I could barely wear a bra. I had a bad scar on my mid-section that took a very long time to heal.” She approached her doctor about getting the vaccine after her shingles subsided but was told there was a vaccine shortage and couldn’t get it, even if paying cash and even though she is a Type II diabetic (and higher risk) until she is 50. “…every little twitch I feel in my body makes me paranoid that I have shingles again. I went to the doctor last week insisting I be seen urgently because I thought I had shingles again, but it turned out to be just a series of bug bites,” she said. “I felt a little silly but I just couldn’t imagine going through the disease process again.” Sarah was 37 when she had shingles.

Many others shared stories like this and all emphasized the importance of being diagnosed properly and in a timely manner. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the incidence of shingles is increasing. Research is ongoing to determine why this upward trend is continuing.

How is shingles diagnosed and what is it like?
Shingles can present in a multitude of ways. It often presents as a painful “burning” rash on one side of the face or body, most commonly the mid-section. Some people never develop a rash and some people develop a rash but have little pain associated with it, others develop blisters that are extremely painful; some blisters are not painful at all. The blisters scab over in a week to 10 days. “The …thing I didn't know, but I do now, is that having pain on just one side of the face [or body] is…a telltale sign of shingles,” said Andy. Other common symptoms are fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. Most people recover fully within 2-4 weeks. Diagnosis can be tricky as shingles can mimic other infections and it does not present the same way in every patient. “The other thing I learned from my experience,” added Andy, “is that every day that passes can significantly increase the severity of the infection.” Joyce, like many people, incorrectly thought that shingles mainly affects older people. Several people who responded to me said that their shingles was so bad and lasted so long that they felt depressed during the illness.

Can shingles be treated?
An anti-viral drug can be used after diagnosis to reduce the length and the severity of the illness. Correct diagnosis of shingles early on is important for the treatment to work. For Andy, the delay in his diagnosis (about two weeks) likely increased the severity of his case of shingles. For the young mom of 3, early diagnosis and treatment likely prevented her from having a more severe case of shingles. Treatment for the itching includes typical anti-itch creams and medications. Oatmeal baths can help soothe the skin as well.

Are there any long-term effects from shingles?
Long term effects from shingles can occur. Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) is severe pain at the sites of the shingles rashes that last for months or even years. It occurs in 10-18% of people and the pain from it can be completely debilitating.

Other potential long-term problems include vision loss if shingles occurs near the eye, nerve damage causing facial paralysis or hearing and balance problems, and skin infections as a result of the blisters and itching. Although Andy’s eyesight has completely returned, he has small scars inside his eye that occasionally make his vision a bit cloudy. “I continue to get some itching in my scalp and more frequently around my eye, but these are just momentary events that don't impact my life in any way,” he said. Andy also has some dead spots (no feeling) on his nose from the more severe blisters.

Is shingles contagious?
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. It can affect anyone who has had chickenpox or has not been vaccinated against it. After a person has had the chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissues near your spinal cord and brain. If the immune system is weakened, the virus may start to multiply along the affected nerve pathway eventually reaching the skin. Therefore, although shingles itself is not contagious, a person with shingles can infect someone with the chickenpox virus (during the blister phase) if they have not been previously exposed or vaccinated. It is recommended that people with shingles remain isolated from babies, the elderly and people who are immunocompromised. Andy said that people would often ask him if his shingles was contagious. “I would have to explain to them that you can't catch shingles from another person, it's always a reactivation of virus already in your body. Many people don’t understand how a person gets shingles.”

Can shingles be prevented?
A shingles vaccine (called Shingrix) is available and recommended by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for healthy adults ages 50 and up. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 2-6 months apart. It is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and provides protection longer than the previous approved vaccine called Zostavax. Your doctor’s office should carry the vaccine and most pharmacies will provide it as well. A person can get shingles more than once. It is important to note that people under 50 can and do get shingles, but the risk of serious side effects from shingles is less.

Does the vaccine have side effects?
Most side effects are limited to redness and soreness at the injection site like any other vaccine. Some people felt tired, had muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. In fact, Andy had fever, chills and nausea from the vaccine, but it cleared up overnight. About 1 out of 6 people who got Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities. Lisa from Heathcote had a small reaction to the booster from Shingrix (low fever and sore arm) but she argues that it’s completely worth getting the vaccine. “My husband had no side effects,” she said. “My mom got the original vaccine but unfortunately got shingles while she was undergoing radiation treatment for cancer right before she had planned to get the updated vaccine. She ended up in the hospital on IV drips of morphine and anti-virals…she was in a lot of pain.”

The response I got on the Scarsdale Moms Facebook from a post asking for people to share their experiences with shingles and/or the vaccine was overwhelming and thank you to all who replied. I couldn’t share all of your stories, but please feel free to share in the comments. Shingles can be severe and it is does not only affect the elderly. In fact, of the 15 responses I received from people who got shingles, only one person was over the age of 50. The vaccine cannot cause shingles. Shingles itself is not contagious but can cause chicken pox in an unvaccinated person or in someone who never had chicken pox. Everyone who responded with a shingles experience stressed how important it is to recognize (or have a doctor recognize) the signs and symptoms early so treatment can begin before the pain or disease severity increases. Talk to your doctor to learn more about vaccination.

AdvocateThis year, one of Scarsdale’s most notable businesses celebrates their fiftieth anniversary. Advocate Insurance and the Binday and Koslowsky families -- who run the agency -- are well known in town, insuring many properties here and donating generously to many community organizations. Since multiple generations of the family live here as well, they are friends, neighbors and your advocate in Scarsdale.

We asked Denise Koslowsky to tell us about Advocate and here is what she shared:

Who founded Advocate and how did it all begin?

Advocate was founded by my mother, Roz Binday, at the recommendation of my father who was an Allstate Agent. At a dinner party, it was discussed that this would be a great tax write off. My mother was pregnant with me, her third child, and was not devoting time to attend insurance school just for a tax write-off. With her, it was all for real or for nothing. So that is how Roz’s embryonic insurance career began.

50 years ago, what did people insure? What was Advocate’s primary business?

The story goes, my mother sold insurance to every single person she met everywhere she was. Mostly small commercial businesses. We lived in the Mamaroneck strip at that time, and her office was on Garth Road. Thus, she insured many businesses on Garth Road and Mamaroneck Avenue in the Village of Mamaroneck. Through an abundance of client recommendations, the business continued to grow and spread to other areas.

Through the years, how has at the business changed?

What started as a “Mom” and Pop (but mostly Mom) shop really evolved to a full-fledged corporation with a wonderful family owned corporate culture at our core. Sometime in the mid 1980’s Roz landed the Jordache Jeans account and that really propelled our business to another level. Ron retired from Allstate and officially joined Advocate, as did Glenn, followed by me. Our community focus also has gained us substantial business in Scarsdale, Westchester, and New York City, as well as the rest of the country. Today we are one of Chubb’s top Cornerstone agents nationwide. We also sit at the top of Pure as a Paragon Agent, Berkley One as one of their partner agents, Cincinnati as a top performer and a Travelers partner agent.

Tell about some rare or unusual items the company has insured.

We have insured many fantastic art collections with Chagall, Old Masters such as Rubens, Titian, and some important contemporary collections. A while ago, we insured a 17th century castle that came from England, piece by piece and was reassembled in NY in 1924. Our clients have since sold it.

Did you insure any notable or famous people’s property that you can discuss?

We currently insure a world renowned photographer whose name I cannot mention, we have insured Mary Stuart Masterson, some famous authors, famous designers, and top lawyers and doctors in the NYC area, along with major real estate moguls.

Who in the family is still involved in the business today?

Still to this day the business is run by the Binday family. Roz and Ron Binday are very much involved. Glenn, Denise, and Jeffrey Koslowsky are responsible for the day to day running of the business.

With the world become more and more virtual and more volatile, where do you see the insurance business going in the next 50 years?

Super service is essential. With the world becoming ever more impersonal, we see our business moving into a concierge service focus along with our commitment to really get to know and understand our clients’ needs. It takes time and patience to educate them. Technological advancements will continue to help us remain efficient in this world, and we expect to remain fiercely independent during this era of mergers and consolidations.

swimacrossamericaEldad Blaustein, John Needham,, Miles Rubin, Joe Kaufman, Chip Rich, Doug Rachlin, Joel Talish, Josh Glantz, Cheryl Blenk, Carol Wolfe, Peter Doyle, Trisanne Berger, Diane, Calderon, Michael Zeller, Patrick Bates, Kevin Hebner, Noah Glantz, Max Bunzel. Saturday July 27 marks the 27th annual Long Island Sound Swim. More than 20 Scarsdale residents will be swimming 1.2, 3, or 6 mile distances or serving as support kayakers as part of Team Bruce. Bruce Dunbar, a lifelong Westchester County resident, lives in New Rochelle but swims year-round with many of these Scarsdale Swimmers. Bruce was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 but, through an innovative immunotherapy treatment, he is swimming on Saturday and is a living testament to the critical importance of cancer research funding.

The Long Island Sound Swim has raised more than $15 million since it was founded in 1992. The goal for this year's event is to raise more than $1,000,000. Team Bruce has already raised more than $225,000!!! That is an incredible sum after this group of swimmers raised $140,000 last year swimming as Team Valerie for Scarsdale Resident Valerie Malsch who continues to live with Multiple Myeloma. If you are interested in supporting Team Bruce or any of it's swimmers, please click here.

athleticlightsThe Scarsdale Planning Board weighed in on the Butler Field light project during a public hearing held last night. In short, after listening to Ray Pappalardi, Director of Physical Education/Athletics for the school district, and several members of the community, the board found that the proposal adhered to existing village code and offered benefits for the community at large – with one caveat – it assumed Butler Field activity will remain at current levels, and nighttime use won’t increase.

It’s an important catch. The district’s proposal is based on current levels of use at Butler and doesn’t predict whether the improved lighting and sound system will attract other events at the field. This begs the question – if you build it, will they come? Since the project is a significant investment, wouldn’t the district want to make the most of it and entertain more use? Could the field become a new hub of village activity? Should it?

While these questions were raised at the meeting, ultimately, the planning board was able only to keep to the specific questions posed by the village trustees with regard to village code. In short, the proposal satisfied those questions.

Just the Facts
Specifically, the group ruled that 1) the proposed location for the lights was “valid and appropriate;” 2) the type of lighting recommended was “valid and appropriate” and an improvement over what is currently in use; 3) the direction of the lighting was deemed valid and in compliance with “dark sky” recommendations; 4) the 80-foot elevation of the lights was an aesthetic concern, but a modest one, compared to the benefits of newer LED-lighting that would be better focused on field activity with less spread to surrounding areas; 5) the landscaping facing Wayside Lane could be added to hide a transformer or screen any light that bounces off the field; 6) the potential negative effects for neighboring properties were minimal, provided the same level of use at the field (noting that additional use, which is possible, could present significant negatives); and 7) the anticipated noise of the new system would be an improvement over what’s currently in use. The board also questioned whether specific regulations for use should be established, and agreed that while this was not a planning issue, would ask the trustees to address the matter.

To someone new to the debate, with no skin in the game, the proposal is simple: the district wants to upgrade existing lighting and sound systems. Surely, new technology will offer many benefits. The rub is the field’s proximity to neighboring homes. Butler Field activity has been the same for decades and neighbors have grown to expect noise and traffic during the day, with things settling down at night, save a few events here and there. But, by upgrading the facility, the district expands its options for field use. It hasn’t provided any assurances for limiting the scope of future use, and it‘s this uncertainty that has neighbors rattled.

Proponents of the light project insist that it’s needed to enhance the high school’s sports program as well as the village rec programs. They believe it could build a greater sense of community, as families and friends bond over nighttime games. The district has worked extensively with residents to develop a plan to minimize light and sound pollution to neighboring homes. In our recent poll, 78.5 percent of residents approved of the plan. But we cannot ignore the fact that facility upgrades present new possibilities… and possible hardships for Butler Field’s neighbors.

Speaking Their Minds
After the school district’s presentation and review of specific aspects of the plan, the planning board invited residents to speak.

Charles Hellman (Wayside Lane) stated, “This is a difficult issue; there’s a lot of competing interests… Butler Field sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood that opens up in several different directions… there’s a fair number of houses in the area that are impacted… There aren’t a lot of specifics of noise but, in general, you’re talking about expanding from what has been an understood time of usage to a new area.” He continued, “Then you’ve got concerns about the installation of poles themselves… this would be four 80-foot poles, the largest (structure)… in a residential community in Scarsdale, if not in… all of Scarsdale. And then you’ve got the noise concerns, traffic, trash, etc., and light pollution. We’ve been told that the… light spillage is minimal… but 80-foot lights, you’re going to be seeing them from a distance… There are a lot of different concerns that the neighbors have expressed; and, then there’s the concern of usage ‘creep.’ This really is a situation where, if you build it, they will come…. What can be put into place to ensure (use) isn’t different five years from now? …There is an expectation in this community about how this field has been used over time and what will be consistent with this usage.”

Claudine Gecel (Kent Road) said, “ I live half a mile away from the high school and I have just tolerated the noise... It’s fine, if it’s once in a while… I think this issue brought up a bigger issue… people are enthusiastic about outdoor activities… and there aren’t enough places for kids to have these organized outdoor activities… The golf course said… it doesn’t have enough people… if (the number of) people using the golf course is declining, and people (involved in) kids’ sports is increasing… you might want to think about finding some other properties that aren’t being used… and have a lot more fields.” She went on, “Everyone wouldn’t be focusing on Butler Field so much because there’d be so many other options.”

Dan Ornstein (Carstensen Road) followed, “First of all, I think that Ray’s done an outstanding job of trying to hear the concerns of the community and trying to address them as best he can. But, I think, to be fair, there’s a larger contingent of residents who do not live… anywhere close to the high school… who, frankly, aren’t as concerned with limits and regulations.” He went on, “The very first meeting (about the lights) was solely focused on a few night events… and we were talking about a half a dozen to a couple more games. And… by the next meeting, that turned into ‘if we’re going to spend this much money to build the infrastructure, we should get more use out of it…’ There’s a desire to use the field as much as possible and that is the concern of the local residents. Secondly… the biggest concern is… even if we set rules (for field use)… the problem is that we’ve come up with no real way of enforcing those rules… Thirdly… one of the discussions has been about how bad the lights we have been using are… We’re seeing this as an alternative to that. I don’t believe I’ve heard any discussion about looking into portable LED lights, which are quiet… they certainly would be better from an (aesthetic) perspective… I’m told that six to eight lights wouldn’t be as tall… and could be installed at a fraction of the cost and could be moved. It would be great to have more study done on that… As a neighbor, I wish we could slow down just a bit and… make sure we’re making the right decisions… there shouldn’t be a race to this.“

Mark Michael (Carstensen Road) echoed Ornstein’s comments and added, “This topic was brought up 10-plus years ago. The initial reason was… to provide lights for football games at night. There was no talk about anything else (and) I thought it was a dubious claim then… One other thing that was mentioned at a board of education meeting was (possibly) having concerts there. The scope and use of the field is likely to change over time.” He continued, “I’m extremely concerned that… whatever the maximum number of days we come up with… we’re going to use every single opportunity to use the lighted space… If we’re going to have the lights as originally intended, we have no issue.”

Dan Steinberg, Chair of the Planning Board, then asked Pappalardi whether the district had discussed any uses other than sports. Pappalardi responded, “There’s been no discussion to plan any other type of events on Butler Field. I think, the board… in open, public meetings, looked at some of the other uses – as with Dean Field, where graduation is currently held – and didn’t want to tie their hands with how the lights might be used in the future. There have been no other considerations about this, or plans made or real discussions about it.”

However, Pappalardi later confirmed the district was not committing itself to limit use of Butler to only sports activities. He further explained that any guidelines or regulations would be set by the school district and self-enforced, with no third-party oversight. The district will remain open to community feedback, and residents will be able to report concerns and complaints directly to Pappalardi, or via a general email and phone number.

Kate Conlan (Madison Road), Co-President of Maroon and White, closed out the public comments by expressing support for the project, saying, “Scarsdale prides itself on being cutting-edge… and, of all our peer communities… we are the last community… to have lights… The Board of Education has done a thorough review of this; they have received hundreds of letters in support of permanent LED lights. The BOE unanimously voted to (install) the lights… (and) has worked very hard with the community to look into guidelines… to (address) concerns and considerations regarding trash, regarding noise, regarding light spillage, and regarding the number of sporting events.” She went on, “One of the things that lights can begin to bring to Scarsdale is community spirit… All the students would be able to see other students play their sports... When you walk into one of these games… it is a wonderful community-building experience. It’s fantastic to see. We just want to bring that… a few times a year.” She added, “One neighbor said… the highlight of his son’s youth football career was playing under the lights at White Plains. ‘I don’t want them here, but his highlight was playing under the lights.’ Come on.”

Next Steps
Even though the Butler light proposal passes muster with village code, is it necessary or even possible for the village board of trustees to set guidelines or limitations on future use? The Planning Board was careful to point out that their recommendations are based on what the school district has proposed and the supporting documentation it has provided; there is no independent verification of the material, nor are there any guidelines outlining the scope of future use. So, the matter remains open as the village and school district move forward.


In attics and storage units across the country, you'll find the ubiquitous x-long twin sheet set and comforter -- bought especially for the extra-long college beds and never to be used again by graduates. That's where Liz Gruber and Tara Tyberg, the co-founders of Grad Bag and two Scarsdale, NY mothers, and their team of volunteers come in.

On college move out days at Columbia, Barnard, Princeton, NYU and many other campuses, Grad Bag volunteers load up U-Haul trucks with linens and other dorm room items that have been donated or discarded by students and collected by sustainability groups. Grad Bag’s work ensures that these items won’t end up in storage, or worse, in landfills. Then, Grad Bag closes the loop by cleaning, repackaging, and redistributing the goods.

On Friday, July 19, over 125 incoming college freshmen, who are participating in Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE), a non-profit organization that helps low-income Yonkers Public School students prepare for college, will go to Grad Bag’s one-day pop up “shop” filled with dorm room items – all without price tags. The event will take place beginning at 10 a.m. at YPIE’s College Zone located at 92 Main Street in Yonkers (next to the Yonkers train station. )

In addition, students who work with Let’s Get Ready will also receive free dorm supplies at the event. Let’s Get Ready (LGR) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that provides low-income high school students from Philadelphia, PA to Lewiston, ME with free SAT preparation, admissions counseling and other support services needed to gain admission to and graduate from college.

This summer, Grad Bag plans to outfit over 1,300 low-income college students with dorm supplies. In addition to bedding, students will receive lamps, towels, decorative pillows, hangers and rugs. To these families, having a child go to college is a bewildering and expensive process. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Back to College Study, students spend an average of $114.21 outfitting their dorm room. Not having to shop for dorm supplies is an enormous help.

Grad Bag was founded in 2012 by two Westchester County moms, Liz Gruber and Tara Tyberg, who realized there were so many dorm room items that graduating seniors no longer needed, but were still in great condition. Instead of having the sets of XL sheets and twin comforters thrown away or gathering dust in attics, Grad Bag addresses two social issues: insuring that low-income students won’t have to stress about equipping their dorm rooms while recycling objects that would otherwise not be used.

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